Corona Chronicles: Shelter in Place

I’m sitting on my patio, watching a little brown boy in a white shirt and gray shorts. He’s riding a hoverboard on his knees. First, he goes straight all the way to the cul-de-sac, where he whirls around and comes back towards me again. Then, he twirls in circles, one, two, three times, until he’s facing straight again. Music is playing but not loud enough for me to hear the melody or words, just enough for me to know he’s listening to something while he spins in circles, passing the time.

brown squirrel eating

To his right are two squirrels. I’ve been watching them for twenty minutes. One sits close to a tree, eating something between his paws, probably a nut. I’ve always known squirrels were skittish, but I never noticed how much. It seems he can hardly enjoy whatever he’s nibbling in between sporadic looks toward distracted noises. He scurries up the tree and sits on a branch and I briefly think about making a squirrel house, with nuts and such. Who am I kidding? I don’t even want to help my husband build things for our own house, much less build a whole home for a hungry squirrel, who seems to be doing life just fine without my interference.

Now, my across-the-way neighbor has come out. He and his wife are in the at-risk age group for coronavirus; his white hair tells me so. Friday, he washed his patio screen with a hard-bristle brush while the trees on his Christmas pajamas danced. I drowned out the repetitive grating during online yoga. Saturday, I saw him drive a two-seater sports car for the first time. His wife slowly backed their white SUV out of the driveway, making space for him to zip into the one-car garage. Today, he’s semi-dressed for an outing: light-blue, short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, navy casual shorts, barefoot. We have an automated sprinkler system and rain has begun to drizzle, but for some reason he’s decided to water the bushes.

boy s blue crew neck shirt
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Two hours have passed. There’s a father-son duo riding their bikes up and down and up and down the street to the same dead-end hoverboard-boy glided towards. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I wonder if the father is wearing a helmet to model good cycling practices for his son, who looks to be no more than five years old, or if he wears it because he really believes it will protect him, should he fall on this short jaunt. I also wonder where the mother is. I always question mothers’ whereabouts when I see fathers and their children. It’s probably a result of my own social conditioning. Here they come again, a fifth revolution.

I’ve sat here long enough. I know because hoverboard boy is back at it, this time a bit more dare devilish with his twirls. I glance up to see him belly down on the concrete. He’s limping back to his garage. He returns with his bike.

I wonder if anyone heard me cackling with my sister for hours the other day or if neighbors watched my husband and I eat waffles, sausage, and eggs in our PJs this morning. Is someone sitting in their home office, peering out their window at the brown woman, wearing glasses, trying to preserve her final month of contacts, while tip-tapping away on her orange laptop? Are they guessing what I’m writing, creating a narrative about why I’ve been sitting here for three days? Or, have they assumed as I have that we’re all creatively sheltering in place?

P.S. I wrote something similar three years ago from Starbucks. It’s funny what can change in a short amount of time. While I realize I cannot go to Starbucks and people-watch, I can make my own coffee, sit on my screened-in patio and create a similar experience. Adjustments. We all have to make them and function according to our current circumstances.

4/5/20

~kg

 

Mental Health Matters: Psyche of An Adoptee (II)

I once read an adoptee’s article I’d found on social media. In it she asked, “Can you imagine being the only person in the world you know who you’re related to?” (Pine, 2015). This woman’s question summarized the moment my adoption was revealed. I felt alone, as if I was the only one of me around. Where did I belong?

Scholars call this a sense of belonging, which is also a common adoptee issue*.

peas_podBelonging begins with family. I looked nothing like anyone around me, which is a physical way of belonging. In addition, my family homed in on parts of my physical difference, such as my butt. My parents used to say I had a “bubble butt.” When E.U.’s Da’ Butt came out, my father would replace one of the names with mine, “Kathy got a big ole butt!” When my elementary class was featured in the Chicago Suntimes, family proclaimed they knew it was me because of the way my butt protruded in the picture. Comments about my derriere continued well into Christmas 2013 when my great aunt mentioned something about my oldest daughter and I sharing this feature. I was 40 years old.

There was nothing my family could do about my posterior, but my mother and grandmother did their best to correct other perceived flaws. My mother noticed I didn’t move my arms when I walked, so she showed me how “normal” people rhythmically did this. To this day, I sometimes remind myself to move my arms so as not to look robotic. That was just the beginning of the list. The two ensured I turned my feet in so that I wouldn’t walk slew footed; straightened my back so that I didn’t walk like a duck; and raised my voice so that I spoke from my diaphragm. My insecurities grew with each lesson, especially because I didn’t see these “flaws” in anyone else.

eggsThere were also familial detachments. My mother retold times of her great-grandmother laying ties on the railroad as an example of where she drew her strength. It’s a great narrative, but there was little connection, because I knew she wasn’t my great-great grandmother.

My paternal grandmother lived about three blocks from us, and eventually, right upstairs, but the distance between us was great. I called her, “Grandma Emma,” like her other grandchildren, but it was obvious she was closer to my father’s sister and her children, who lived 800 miles away. I recognized the warmness in the way she embraced them when they visited and the attention she provided. Maybe this had little to do with being adopted; maybe it did. Either way, I didn’t feel a part of her.

square pegI carried this general lack of belonging into my marital family. How could I feel at ease in an additional family, when I couldn’t even find comfort with the one in which I was raised?

I sensed the awkwardness of my own interactions.

My father-in-law would sit at the kitchen table and talk to me about how he fixed a refrigerator that morning. I’d stare past his words, not knowing what to say or how to relate.

“Seems like she’s not interested in what I’m saying,” he once told his son.

I wasn’t. But more importantly, I just didn’t know how to be around someone else’s family.

His mother once told me she was glad she didn’t have girls.

“They seem difficult,” she admitted.

I internalized her comments and assumed as her daughter-in-law I must also be too difficult for her. We rarely spoke more than five sentences between us. Not understanding her quiet, unassuming personality, I deemed their nuclear family as another group I probably wouldn’t fit into.

Like other parts of me, this pattern of behavior remained and affected many adult relationships. I developed detached connections since I figured I wouldn’t fit in anyway. It’s a stressful existence for sure. But one that I eventually learned to let go of.

Eventually, I’ll explain how. Until then, let me know if you can relate to anything here. I’ve since learned that you don’t have to be an adoptee to feel as if you don’t fit in.

*Disclaimer: I only speak for myself. I’m sure all adoptees have different experiences and perspectives.

Mental Health Matters: Psyche of an Adoptee (I)

I never heard of the word “adoptee” until a few years ago. This is for two reasons. One, that’s when I began researching specific mental health topics, and two, most conversations about adoption are centered on the benevolence of adoptive parents. For the most part, adoptees are left out of this discussion. Like mental health, I’m on a mission to also de-marginalize adoptee’s voices*, which sometimes go hand-in-hand.

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As I’ve explained before, after I discovered I was adopted, my parents never mentioned it again. It was just a blip in that day. After my mother died, my grandmother would frequently mention my adoption. Sometimes she’d reminisce about them searching for my receiving blanket and then remembering that they didn’t receive me in a traditional way. Other times, she’d marvel at how much she and other family members thought I looked like my mother, even though I did not.

In retrospect, I believe my grandmother’s comments and others’ interactions were unconscious ways to ensure I was perceived as a part of and not different than them. However, after reading several bits of information on adoption, I’ve learned that adoptees, no matter how loving and accepting their adoptive families were, have similar issues.

Identity is one. It is common for adoptees to not know who they are, literally and figuratively. According to Erikson (1968), identity begins in childhood and develops over adolescence, right around the time I’d found out about my adoption. For me, identity formation included accepting I wasn’t biologically a part of a family, being told this was my “family,” and being asked to accept someone else’s definition of who I was and where I belonged.

I never verbally expressed my identity confusion, but I definitely showed it.

I switched identities with everyone and everywhere. I used to wait and observe those around me to understand not only how to speak, but also how to act, how to be. And if it was behavior with which I was unfamiliar, then I simply remained quiet for fear of not fitting in. This continued through adulthood. For years, I showed very little of myself around my husband’s immediate family. He and his golden-brown mother, father, and brother seemed to be paper-doll perfect, and I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to fit into their picture.

This behavior continued in other ways. At our wedding reception, the DJ played a popular Detroit house music song. I’d been living there for a year and had grown used to their brand of house. I began dancing and Tima, my friend from high school scrunched up her face and said, “Kathy, what is this shit?”

Dwight said something about this being my song. He was right. But I remember almost freezing in place because two worlds had collided; two of my identities faced one another. Do I say, yeah girl. This is my song? Or, do I stop dancing and return to my Chicago House music roots? I think I stopped dancing.

These examples may seem slight, but when you don’t know who you are or what you like, or how to be yourself in every situation, small things can turn into frenetic anxiety-induced happenings. And, they can add up.

IMG_2990At the beginning of our relationship, Dwight introduced me to comic books and cartoons about superheroes. I began watching Batman just because he did. I stopped wearing red lipstick because he re-told a story about his father’s experiences overseas with women and red lipstick. I thought he didn’t like it. I grew my hair past my neck and to my shoulders because he’d once admitted his preference for long hair. He and his family watched movies a lot; subsequently, he and I could be found at the movies almost every weekend.

I did very little that I liked to do, not because my husband forced me to do things he liked, but simply because I hadn’t explored who I was or what was enjoyable to me.

These are just a few instances of how a lack of clear identity affected me throughout the years. Trust me. I could write a novel of examples woven well into the 2000s.

Instead, I’ll end here. But I invite you to comment. Can you relate to this issue? Are you a person who lived with identity issues even though you’re not adopted?

Source

*Disclaimer: I only speak for myself. I’m sure all adoptees have different experiences and perspectives.

Corona Chronicles: Reading as Escapism

In 1990, when I moved to Covert, Michigan to live with my grandparents, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about living in a remote town of fewer than 2,000 people. There was nothing I could do about not seeing my father. And there was nothing I could do about missing my friends, some of whom I’d known since I was six years old.

I had little control over my life, and I’d succumbed to the idea that I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring or how the next day’s unknown events may disrupt whatever today’s new normal was, kind of like now.

So, in between finishing high school, working at a bank as a 10-key data entry clerk, and messing around with my new boyfriend, I read.

img_3543I read Stephen King novels. There was something about reading scary-ass narratives that could never happen to me that was more comforting than reality.

Misery helped me focus on a crazy nurse, who held her favorite writer hostage and tormented him.

Firestarter swept me away to unbelievable events centered on a father and daughter who’d gained telepathic powers and the ability to set fires.

The Dark Half is a little harder to explain, but let’s just say reading about a fictional author with dissociative disorder was captivating and kept my mind on other things, kind of like now.

img_3500I’m always reading, but lately, I’ve  been reading more, faster. I started Octavia Butler’s Kindred right at the beginning of our country’s serious discussion of the pandemic and finished it just as Florida’s restaurants were mandated to do take-out only, about two weeks.

Right after, I was compelled to find another book. As I’m writing this, I’ve decided on Jasmine Guillory’s The Proposal. It’s a light read that shelters me from 24-hour news cycles and fear-based social media updates.

Unlike when I was seventeen, I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m fully aware of how I feel and what’s going. I sense the world’s pulse. But I’ve easily slipped into a coping mechanism and I wonder if that’s the way we all function.

Hoarders hoard and fearmongers spread fear because they’ve been triggered. Folks who call others “dumb” and “stupid” for attending Mardi Gras or other group activities may be repeating phrases spoken to them during their childhoods. Like me, they’ve been here before on a smaller scale, but maybe they’ve not been able to process their emotions to understand other ways to function. Being triggered is a thing that’s real, inherent. 

Usually, I write for others, but this piece is more so a reminder from me to me not to judge how others are handling social distancing, quarantines, and death. However, I’m sharing because I do hope in some way it also reminds us all that we’re each doing the best we can, considering our past backgrounds and current circumstances. Even though it may look a little different, we all seem to be in survival mode.

So, if you have some book suggestions to help me escape, add them in the comments below.

3/28/20

~kg

Parts were written for this essay published on The Mighty: How Reading is Helping Me Fight Through Feeling Powerless Over COVID-19.

Femonomic: Women Invite Crime

c02c27f8-1d50-440f-9def-29e3a1537457-1One of the best parts of blogging is meeting new people from around the world. This has been true for one woman I’ve followed, who is from India, Lovey Chaudhary. (Femonomic). I realized we shared similar ideas about women and social justice issues when she read and reviewed The Unhappy Wife four years ago. So, when she announced her book of poetry, Femonomic: Women Invite Crime, centered on raising people’s consciousness about how Indian women are (mis)treated, I was intrigued.

Poetry is sometimes stereotyped as flowery and light, but the poems found in this book are anything but. Although I knew Lovey’s background and stance, at first I was alarmed by how the book began. Titles like, “the fate of an unborn in womb” and “infanticide” introduce the reader to Indian culture where babies are murdered because they are not male children. But, I get it. The female species is undervalued at birth. The very idea of having a girl child is repulsive and unwelcomed. And, if girls are allowed to be born in this society, then poems like “acid attack cycle” demonstrate what could happen as they age. If you’re unfamiliar, then this link may provide background on this vile practice.

Another occurrence in this country is that crimes against women are rarely brought to justice because men continue to be in power in misogynistic and violent ways.

One of my favorite poems from her collection that shows the lack of consequence is “crime and punishment,” which I’ll share here:

one of many tainted times

the crime is not rewarded

with the retribution along the same lines

 

the archetypal excuses of the judiciary

and typical society

are silently soaked in sanguine saccharine

grinning gingerly

about legal implications and sentence

 

how ailing it is for you to drink

three cups of justice and two latest of equality

to hydrate pages with some ink while righteousness await

4f852cc4-b70e-4a8a-a4aa-162405a6ea41This poem speaks to me because of its universality. It demonstrates the injustices that many of us around the globe face. There doesn’t seem to be a real “justice system” for all, but rather a system that works for whomever is at the top of the power structure. I also think Chaudhary uses alliteration in a creative way. Silently soaked in sanguine saccharine sounds optimistic, especially because saccharine is sweet and sanguine can be positive, but the implication is that it isn’t. Injustices will continue as usual, not just for India, but for us all.

Chaudhary also asks rhetorical questions throughout, like this one, “Can the damage be undone for what our world has become” (p. 48).

This question and another poem, “plastic planet” is imperative for everyone. The Amazon fires and plastic floating in the ocean make me wonder the same thing. What can we do? Is it too late?

These poems are also inspirational. From self-love to anxiety, Chaudhary encourages the reader to get up and do more.

If you’re interested in poetry or any of the themes mentioned, then please purchase Femonomic: Women Invite Crime or follow her on these platforms:

Blog

IG

Twitter

Corona Chronicles: Meditating

I typically don’t share much about my personal spiritual practice because I know that even in the 21st century, people still consider some things a little woo-woo, and I’d rather not get into a back-and-forth about validity. But, after a couple coronavirus weeks and listening to people, I think a conversation about meditation may be helpful.

meditating_1In the early part of 1998, I had a miscarriage that resulted in a D&C. Shortly after that procedure (and against the doctor’s advice), I was pregnant again with my firstborn. In order to calm my mind and focus on having a healthy baby, I read a book my mother-in-law had passed on to me about creative visualization. The internet calls creative visualization a cognitive process. I’m not sure if that’s different than meditation, but for this post, I’ve decided they’re the same. Whatever camp it’s in, creative visualization is what first taught me how to focus my mind on a subject.

Sixteen years later, when I wanted to understand why my relationships weren’t going so well, I downloaded a guided meditation led by Deepak and Oprah. This meditation lasted 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Deepak provided daily mantras and journal prompts centered on specific traits of the theme, which in this case was called, “Miraculous Relationships.” Quite honestly, this worked for me and I discovered more about myself and how to engage in healthier ways with everyone. The relationships I currently have are my testament.

After the relationship meditation, I began reading about chakras. I was intrigued by the information, which I’ll briefly summarize. In short, chakras represent the body’s energy centers. They can be blocked, spinning in the wrong direction, or too open. The idea is for them to be open and aligned.

chakraAs soon as I read about each chakra, I related immediately to how the explanations represented different parts of my life, which had slipped out of alignment. For example, I knew my throat chakra, which is associated with self-expression, was too open because symptoms included gossiping, arrogance, and condescension. For those of you who only know me through this blog, it may seem uncharacteristic, but at one point, these described me perfectly. Conversely, once I began chakra-based meditations, I began to speak a little differently and learned to communicate in kinder ways (i.e., this blog).

This leads me to our current times. Everything from trending hasghtags, like #staythefuckhome to a man dying from eating fish tank cleaner because it included ingredients of an alleged cure is evidence to me that the coronavirus has the world functioning in fear. I understand why we’re so afraid. I totally get being worried, considering life seems unstable. But, I also know it is unhealthy to remain stuck in these emotions and fully believe feeling unsafe and anxiety ridden are examples of our root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras being imbalanced.

So, last week, I focused on me. I meditated on balancing my own root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras to remind myself that everything is okay, because it is. The one I like to practice is by Late Blooming Light Worker. Her meditations include a 10-point process, which I’ve found to be a comprehensive way to:

  • breathe mindfully,
  • remove body pains,
  • focus on one chakra at a time,
  • learn mudras (hand positions),
  • practice affirmations, and
  • chant.

Meditating on the three chakras above helped me to listen to coronavirus news, while maintaining a calm sense of understanding about the present status of my own life, which I control no matter what disease is spreading.

So what say you? I try not to give advice, but I do think using creative visualization could be a great way to envision the type of world in which you’d like to live. A guided meditation may help you understand yourself a little more. Aligning your chakras could prevent you from slipping into fear-based living.

Either way, please let me know how you’ve been coping and what you’ve been doing. If you meditate, let me know which kind. If not, then feel free to share how you’ve been staying above the fray, while corona is among us.

Be well.

~kg 3/24/20

Notes & Musings: Reflecting on a Recent Publication “What It Actually Means To Be Pro-Choice”

choice-2692466_1280I had first written a piece about having an abortion over twenty years ago, then fifteen years ago. Each revision a nuanced version of the previous one, reflecting how my thoughts had grown throughout the years. One idea remained, and that is the procedure itself didn’t bother me. What vexed me was keeping it a secret from specific friends and family. I don’t mean to say that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but there have been many times when I wanted to insert it in a relevant conversation, like, “so when I had an abortion…” to support a point.

Here’s what I mean. Thanksgiving 2019, I was with my cousins. One of them works for his state’s health department. He was recalling how difficult it is to tell parents that their children have an STD or worse, HIV, mainly because (according to him) suburban housewives don’t want to admit their children are having sex, even after he tells them about their child’s sexually transmitted disease. One story led to another and we ended up on the topic of abortion and how that same woman demographic is pro-life. And that’s where I wanted to say, “so when I had an abortion,” but I didn’t.

It’s so taboo and it doesn’t go well with turkey and dressing. But, it’s because of this taboo status and made-up social rules that I believe many of us choose to remain quiet, instead of opening up authentic dialogue that could offer another perspective on issues that impact us all.

I imagine some people won’t relate to what I’m about to say, and I’ve made peace with this part because everyone can’t connect to everything, but for me, it is very important that I can be my whole self with people, no matter what. Being myself includes being able to open up about nearly everything. But, like many other things in my life, I’ve not only kept having an abortion a secret, but also my unashamed feelings about it. Both secrets were tucked away on a digital drive, until February.

female-454868_1280That’s when this personal essay was published. It was finally time. It was the opportune moment for my thoughts and writing to align with the era. Twenty years ago, wasn’t the right time. Sure, people were discussing abortion; they have been since it was legalized, but there wasn’t a full-on assault on the practice. Even with the novel coronavirus taking up much of our attention, abortion clinics are closing, and doctors are being fined and jailed. The actual abortion practice is shifting.

Had my article been published twenty years ago, it would’ve just been another story. Currently, the narrative is integral for women’s rights and for reproductive rights.

So, *here it is. Of course, I’d love for you to read it, no matter your political beliefs or whether you agree with my stance or not. My point is not to achieve consensus on the topic, but rather to start a conversation that begins with, “so when I had an abortion,” in order to humanize this event.

Because guess what? We’re never going to progress if we continue to keep experiences locked up in a proverbial closet.

*The referenced piece was first published on PULP, a sex/uality and reproductive rights publication celebrating this human coil.

Corona Chronicles: Coronavirus/COVID-19

charles-dickens-quote-lbt7i6rI finally understand what Charles Dickens meant when he wrote the intro for A Tale of Two Cities, well, kind of.

It was the best of times. It is the best of times. Isn’t it? I mean, think about it. We live in the Information Age. Technology has afforded many of us access to anything we want to know via the Interwebs. Cell phones connect us in ways we probably never imagined. We don’t have to ask anyone anything anymore. Technology has made it so. We can Google corona virus…and voila! Not only will we receive information, but it may change right before our eyes as we all learn together in real time how to react.

It was the worst of times. Every country around the world has a lot going on. Vladmir Putin is planning to remain president for life to enact revenge on the West. At least ten countries (have been and) are presently at war. Approximately 64,000 Black women are missing in the States. About 15% of the Amazon rainforest burned in 2019. July 2019 Anchorage, Alaska reported their first recorded temperature of 90 degrees. Add corona virus to this list, which the World Health Organization has now classified as a pandemic, and I’d say it seems to be the worst of times.

It was the age of wisdom. Oxford defines wisdom as “the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period.” The Information Age has gifted us with 24-hour access to one another and to new sources. These connections have led many of us to believe we are wise about all of the things we encounter. But this is an illusion. Everyone only thinks they know everything. Really, we don’t know much. For me, not knowing has been most evident as the corona virus spread; however, I don’t know hasn’t been a phrase uttered very much the past few months. But it should be. It’s a perfectly fine thing to proclaim.

safe_imageIt was the age of foolishness. Yep. Through the socials and traditional media, I’ve heard everything from only elderly people can die from corona virus to no black people can die from corona virus. Really? It seems sensible that compounded illnesses and weak immune systems make people more vulnerable to a corona virus death, but I’m pretty sure viruses aren’t age discriminate and don’t racially profile. Even President Trump disseminated misinformation during his State of Emergency address that had to be backtracked. Turns out you can’t just send everyone home from Europe in two-days’ time after all.

It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. <sigh> I’ve never seen so many people hope the government will save us, while simultaneously having little faith that the government will actually do anything. But I understand. Historically, doctors and scientists study diseases, create vaccines, and prevent epidemics and pandemics. Typically, those who are at the top of the field work with the government to do so. But, specifically in the U.S. our government is pretty dysfunctional. Couple that with our president, who has in some ways made these people (and their associated knowledge) the enemy and left specific CDC jobs unfilled, and you get the skepticism many of the country’s citizens have.

There’s more to Dickens’ intro, but I’d like to add two of my own:

It was a time for panic. It was a time for calm. My mother-in-law texted me, saying this: A friend of mine received a message yesterday from a friend that works at the Pentagon that all grocery stores will close in a couple of days. All schools are closed here.

My grandmother has socially isolated because she’s 93, and according to her and the CDC, she should remain home due to her age.

Hundreds of thousands of university students are returning home to finish the semester online.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, staring out of the window, watching what looks to be typical rush-hour traffic. Folks must’ve gone to work today.

I’m waiting to hear what time my daughter’s flight will return from England. Corona and President Trump’s travel restrictions interrupted her Spring Break trip. Florida’s schools just announced that students will have an additional week off so that they and their families, who travelled to high-risk areas can remain home and not infect others and so custodians can conduct a deep cleaning.

115f5913cb41de40e1d0fb24bcd110e0According to social media, people are still stockpiling bread, water, Clorox, and hand sanitizer. Shelves are empty. Folks are praying; others are spreading conspiracy theories, and some are joking about capitalizing on inexpensive trips.

And as I sip my grande Mango Dragonfruit refresher, while watching America scramble to contain a virus we’ve never seen, I have some inkling of what Dickens meant when he wrote those paradoxical words. It is indeed both the best of times and the absolute flippin’ worst.

~kg 3/13/20